The funeral Sunday of Wissam al-Hassan, head of Lebanon’s internal intelligence agency, leads the news in Arab media Monday, as the country is engulfed in political violence.
Saudi-owned daily A-Sharq Al-Awsat describes “political and security violence, not seen in years,” while London-based daily Al-Hayat writes of “public anger” surrounding Hassan’s funeral. A-Sharq Al-Awsat dedicates its headline to the heightened security surrounding the government building in Beirut, where scores of young demonstrators flocked Sunday to express their outrage at the assassination.
Former Lebanese prime minister Fouad Siniora, a supporter of opposition leader Rafik Hariri, called for the resignation of prime minister Najib Mikati, but said that violence should not be used to achieve that end.
“The assassination of Wissam al-Hassan is no less dangerous in its political ramifications than the assassination of Rafik Hariri,” writes A-Sharq Al-Awsat columnist Iyad Abu-Shaqra. “It is a turning point; the start of a devastating plan to rewrite the reality of Lebanon and the region. It should be treated as such.”
But Al-Hayat columnist George Samaan claims that Mikati’s resignation will do little to stabilize the situation in Lebanon, since Lebanon is captive to larger regional forces.
‘Sources close to Syria say that it would be a mistake to make rushed accusations before the start of investigations,’ writes the daily. ‘Syria is the primary victim of sectarian strife in Lebanon’
“There is fear that [the government's] resignation will not allow the Lebanese to form an alternative government, in light of their perpetual division on their country’s position vis-a-vis the regional conflict.”
Al-Quds Al-Arabi, a London-based daily, quotes the chants by demonstrators storming the government building calling for revenge and demanding the resignation of prime minister Mikati, a government ally of Hezbollah, which is commonly believed to be behind the assassination.
The lead editorial in the Arab nationalist daily, titled “Syria’s neighbors are on the edge of a volcano,” seems to question Syria’s involvement in the assassination.
“Sources close to Syria say that it would be a mistake to make rushed accusations before the start of investigations,” writes the daily. “Syria is the primary victim of sectarian strife in Lebanon.”
“These sources made reference to similar accusations of Syria following the assassination of former Lebanese prime minister Rafik Hariri, claiming that Israel could stand to benefit from this explosion, considering the man [Hassan] exposed a number of its spying networks in Lebanon.”
Meanwhile, Al-Jazeera reports a tense calm in Beirut Monday morning following the clashes between the military and protesters on Sunday. But violence has erupted in the northern Lebanese city of Tripoli, where a young girl was killed in clashes between Sunni and Alawite residents.
Egypt freezes Shafiq’s assets
An Egyptian judge decided on Sunday to freeze the assets of Mubarak loyalist and former presidential candidate Ahmad Shafiq on suspicion of illicit gains, Arab media reports.
Shafiq, for his part, has described the decision as “misguided” and threatened to react harshly, A-Sharq Al-Awsat reports.
But an Egyptian court refused a request by the country’s illicit gains authority to expose Shafiq’s bank accounts, Egyptian daily Al-Ahram reports Monday.
Meanwhile, independent daily Al-Masry Al-Youm reports that Egypt has joined Greece in the list, compiled by Sovereign Global — an international investment institution — of countries with “the most risky sovereign credits.” Greece tops the list of 10 countries with the most menacing national debt, whereas Egypt comes in tenth, with a 27.3 percent chance of reaching bankruptcy within five years.
Jordan busts Al-Qaeda cell
A Jordanian government announcement Sunday that it foiled a plan to attack malls and diplomatic offices in Amman using suicide bombers is making main headlines in Arab media.
Quoting a press statement by Jordan’s General Intelligence Agency, Al-Hayat reports that 11 Jordanian men entering the country from Syria had sought advice on explosives from Al-Qaeda experts in Iraq. They had already begun experimenting with explosives and selecting the attackers, some of whom were meant to carry out suicide attacks.
An unnamed security source told Al-Hayat that the cell had smuggled in rockets and explosive belts from Syria, “taking advantage of the security situation in our northern neighbor.”